James 4:1-12 – Wrong Motives

Read James 4:1-12

“Looking for love in all the wrong places.” I don’t know why that lyric came to mind from a song I heard many years ago. I’ll lead with that today. Wrong motives keep us stuck, too. God is the true source of love, we need to be looking to him, submitting to his will for us!

I liked the wisdom of this passage that points the  finger back at us. What causes quarrels, disagreements, misunderstandings? We do, and our wrong motives. We are so often being led around by our selfish desires that we get stuck in a cycle of hurt. Hurt to ourselves and hurt to others.

Do we want it that way? Probably not, but we seem to be stuck just the same. How many times have you been in a friend’s home, looked around and saw something you wished you had? Maybe it was a physical thing, maybe it was how neat and organized everything appeared, or maybe it was just the vibe of contentment you sensed. Whatever the case, you wanted something you hadn’t yet attained. The Bible calls that coveting, and it’s a big no-no.

We wonder why our prayers don’t get answered. If our hearts are basking in these wrong motives, we are most likely asking God the wrong way, for the wrong reasons. God isn’t about to say yes to our requests if our desires are not pure.

We need to humble ourselves before the Lord. “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” I picture myself emptying myself in the presence of God. I pull all of the evil from my heart and lay it down. All of the junk, lies I’ve told myself about my worth, I lay it down. I’ve got quite a pile in front of me when I am truly honest with myself. When I have emptied myself of me and my faults, false truths, and evil desires, I am clean, humble before the Lord. We should do it daily.

One of our children’s Confirmation Bible verse was James 4:7, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” I have always thought that to be a profound and beautiful picture of getting rid of the junk inside. There is such freedom when we submit to God, yet so often we hold on to our own selfish ambitions. Do you do that, too?

If we successfully rid ourselves of what is holding us back, God’s promises to us are so worth it. “Come near to God and he will come near to you… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want to aspire to – having God near me, to be lifted up in his presence.

Let’s pray. Father God, I bow before you today and ask that you help me empty myself. I want to make room for you to live inside me. Lift me up so I can stand proudly and proclaim your name. Your perfect plan is waiting for me, and I want to humble myself before you to claim it. Help me to let go of what is holding me back. I want to step boldly into the world with you by my side, Lord. Thank you for all of the blessings you have given me. I want to live with a grateful and humble heart, unafraid to declare that you are my God, my creator and friend. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

James 3:13-18 – Where Does Your Wisdom Come From?

Read James 3:13-18

You may have heard the Book of James referred to as the New Testament Proverbs. Certainly it is not just a set of ideas and thoughts but rather a congruent teaching designed mainly for the teachers of the day, but certainly applicable to all. It speaks to us today even louder than ever.

Today we talk about wisdom. Two kinds of wisdom.  Wisdom that is of the world, that is demonic and evil, and the other, good kind, that is from God. So many people are concerned today with social justice and political correctness. At what cost? There seems to be such a sway away from what the Bible teaches. Bible scholars are aghast at the trends we see taking over society and how words of the Bible are twisted to fit people’s evil desires.

James was seeing the same thing and wanted to get things straightened out. He was starting with the teachers, I suppose hoping he could get an army of educators on the right page. He wanted to end selfish ambition and return people to God.

God’s word brings peace to those who listen. God’s wisdom is full of grace and gentleness, both great attributes for people in dealing with others. The “other” wisdom will bring division and jealousy because it is not considerate and giving, only self serving and full of disorder.

So what do we do about it today? How can we change the direction people think and follow?

Have you heard of the starfish story? It’s where they find so many starfish washed up on the beach waiting to die because they are separated from their lifesource–the water. One by one, a young person begins taking the starfish back to the water. When asked what they were doing, how could they possibly begin to save them all. The reply came, “I made a difference for this one.”

That’s what James was trying to do and what we should be trying to do as well. For those lost in their evil thoughts and motives, we need to bring light and truth. With gentleness and grace we need to be the example of true wisdom and let everything that comes from our mouth be helpful and full of God’s love.

Verse 13 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

Let’s pray. Father God, I am saddened by this world’s lack of focus on you and your truth. Godly wisdom is what I seek. I want to be so full of you and your wisdom that people can’t help but see and notice my gentleness, my grace, my peace and my sincerity. I want to be a full reflection of you. Let my words and deeds be the example needed to set your people free from the bondage of evil desires. Work in their hearts to feel the uncomfortable separation from you. Make their yearning for a relationship stronger than ever so that they will be open to looking for you in places they haven’t looked before. May the sermon of my life speak louder than my words ever could. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

James 3:1-12 – Watch Your Mouth!

Read James 3:1-12

Did you ever have your mouth washed out with soap when you were a child? I don’t think it’s a practice many still take part in these days, but I remember the taste of “Safeguard” bar soap very well. I think for my kids it was “Dial” liquid soap.

These days are also rampant with accounts of bullying and the negative effects that result.

We must really be careful what comes out of our mouths. Verse 6 says,  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” There is power in the tongue!

How do we tame our tongue? It’s not easy. Once something passes our lips, it’s all over. We can’t take it back. Not even saying “I’m sorry” can truly take away the hurt, shame, or guilt that may ensue.

So what should come out of our mouths? Ephesians 4:29 says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Another good passage is Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

Take a moment to let those two verses speak to your heart.

When we praise our Father, our mouth does what it is meant to do! We were designed to worship our Father, the creator of the universe. When joyful praise crosses our lips, our heart also sings, our spirits are lifted and it is something we can all do together. Harmony of spirit gives us life! We are at last giving pleasure to God.

Can you have a more thankful heart? Can you sing praise more regularly?

Let’s pray. Father, please forgive me for the hurtful things that come out of my mouth. As soon as the words out come, I realize they are negative and not helpful. Cleanse my heart and mind so that only thoughts that are uplifting and good fill my head. Help me be a light to others, reflecting your goodness and mercy. May praise always be on my lips for you great and worthy to be praised. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


James 2:14-26 – Useless Faith

Read James 2:14-26

What is faith? Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.”  Since we cannot see God like we see each other, our faith allows us to truly believe.

But, it goes beyond that. Even demons believe in God. Our faith needs to be deeper. How’s that? Faith plus deeds equals righteousness or being “right with God.” That’s quite a concept.

Deeds would be what we do and how we live. Maybe we need to take our “deeds temperature.” If we are totally inward focused and do nothing to help others, our deeds temperature will be COLD! Alternatively, if we are active in our churches and community to help others, serving them in the name of Jesus, our deeds temperature will be HOT, or at least warm.

If our faith is alive and active within us, we are going to be burning to serve others. Jesus was the perfect example of being a servant leader. We need to be on the look out for the needs around us. We need to be listening for God’s instruction to us. Just like Abraham listened to God. Abraham really listened. I’m not sure I would have been as obedient to have nearly sacrificed one of my children. But God’s plan was perfect, and Abraham’s faith was played out in his deeds.

“You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” What deed can you do today?

Verse 26 says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” Is your faith alive or dead?

Let’s pray. Lord, I come to you today reflecting on my faith life. I don’t want my faith to be dead. I want to serve you and be transparent in my devotion to you. It is my desire that my actions truly make a difference in the lives of others. Give me the courage to live my faith out loud, louder than I already do. Show me the plans you have for me, Lord. I want to please you in all I say and do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

James 2:1-13 – Mercy Triumphs

Read James 2:1-13

Breaking the law, God’s law isn’t anything we intend to do. At least for most of us. Sometimes it happens. When we do stumble, we look for God’s mercy and forgiveness. When we seek, we find it. God is merciful and he does forgive, so long as we have also shown mercy.

What are ways that we can show mercy? We can start by not holding grudges against others. We need to forgive and forget, just as our Father in heaven.

This passage also speaks a lot to our attitude toward others. Being judgmental is something we definitely should NOT do. We all do it though. The example given was really good, didn’t you think? Since I’ve read it before, I’m always convicted to be more attentive to the poor and needy, than to respond to the rich and sophisticated.

And isn’t it a good point that it is the rich who are the very ones who make our lives more difficult. They are the rule enforcers, and many of those rules are designed to help them, the rich, giving no mind to the needs and position of the poor, or even middle class sometimes. That is a bit of a frightening realization – nothing has changed. Unfairness still exists.

I like how we have here the simple reminder of the “royal” law. We may also know this as the “golden rule.” That is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Yes, it’s Biblical, and what a good reminder. It sounds simple, but sometimes it is very difficult. Not everyone is lovable. I’m sure each of us knows someone who is stubborn, hateful, grumpy and mean. I could go on with adjectives, but it is set out clearly for us – love your neighbor! Period.

How can you be a better neighbor today?

Let’s pray. Lord and Father from above I thank you for this reminder. Your Word never returns empty, and today it has left an impression on me. Thank you that you have given me the resources to help those in need. Help me go beyond just the financial but to really be present for those less fortunate. Forgive me for times when I have not shown the mercy on others that would have been appropriate in your eyes. Forgive me for any hurtful things I may have said or done. Lead me to those people who need to hear from you today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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